Friday, July 5, 2013

Devils Tower

About 40 million years ago, volcanic activity kicked up in what is now northeastern Wyoming and a spout of lava wormed its way up through layers of sedimentary rock. It probably never reached the surface, just created a bulge in the landscape. Then the pressure subsided and the lava cooled. Because of its mineral makeup, the cooling lava formed itself into mostly hexagonal columns, and there it lay under the surface, not bothering anybody. But the thing about this cooled mass of lava is that it was way harder than the sedimentary rock it had intruded itself into. So over the ensuing millennia, as the surrounding landscape eroded away, these columns of lava were left exposed, creating the formation now known as Devils Tower.

The giant bear theory
At least that's the geologists' version of the story. Various Native American tribes had their own theories, mostly revolving around the same theme. In the Lakota version, seven girls were chased by a giant bear. They reached a flat rock where they stopped and prayed to the rock to save them. The rock started to raise itself creating the tower. The bear tried to climb up and have the girls for lunch, it's giant claws scraping the sides of the tower and creating the vertical cracks. Eventually the seven girls were raised all the way up into the sky where they became the Pleiades. What it is with gods and turning people into stars I have never understood. It is usually presented as a benevolent act but if it were me I would prefer the gods just made the damn bear go away and let me get on with my life, thank you very much. In various Indian languages, the tower is called the Bear's Lodge or the Bear's Teepee or the Bear's something or other. One of the early explorers mistranslated "Bear" as "Evil God", which subsequently got changed to "Devil", resulting in its modern name.

Teddy signing autographs
During the first decade of the 20th century, Congress passed the Antiquities Act which gave the president the power to create national monuments to protect sites of historic and/or scientific interest. Private collectors were raiding Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and intent of the law was to protect Indian ruins and artifacts, but Teddy Roosevelt cheerfully used the "scientific interest" language to create a total of 18 national monuments including the Grand Canyon by presidential fiat. The very first of these was Devils Tower. Speaking of Teddy Roosevelt, he was there when we visited today, signing autographs and posing for pictures. He looks pretty spry for a man of 155 years.

Prairie dog staring me down
At the base of the tower there is also a prairie dog town. We had watched the prairie dogs in Badlands national Park last year. Here their homes lie amid a grassy green field instead of brown desert, but otherwise they seem pretty much the same.

Because of the thunderstorm last night, the air was extremely humid and the sky was mostly cloudy while we were there. Vicki had intended to walk the 1.1 mile trail around the base of the tower, but since we were both dripping sweat walking the 50 feet from the car to the visitor center, we decided to forgo the hike. We did check out the campground and a Japanese sculpture mounted in the monument representing a smoke ring from the sacred pipe. Why it is there I have no idea. Then we drove the
Dog grooming
40 miles back to Gillette where Vicki groomed our dogs. She learned how to do this in order to save the $90 a month we were spending to have this service performed back in Redlands. She started around five o'clock. It is currently 8:55 and she still at it. This is one of the big lessons we're learning. Once you retire, money seems more valuable but your time is worthless.  Tomorrow morning we will spend some of our worthless time packing up the motorhome so we can hit the road for Buffalo on our way to Cody.

1 comment:

  1. TERRIFIC cloud formations in your Devil's Tower photographs!
    Vicki looks quite professional grooming Abby.

    We drove to Leavenworth,WA for a brief catching-up visit with Ruth and Paul. They are looking forward to meeting up with you in Cody! Their "rig" is mighty nice-looking, too.

    May your upcoming travels be uneventful, even though we blog readers may enjoy slightly less interesting "stories"...